Geeks and Hackers Gone Wild…on Location Technology

By Joe Francica

So, what's going on? Now even geeks are building web services that incorporate elements of location technology: maps, route directions, friend finder, and the ever-popular "pet locator." According to Tim O'Reilly, Founder of O'Reilly Media, one of the largest computer book publishers in the world and a proponent of open source software, who keynoted our conference on Location Technology and Business Intelligence, when the geek squads appear to begin hacking away at the latest tech tool, the mainstream is not far behind.And so it is with location technology.He sees an emergence of programmers that are not necessarily from the GIS arena taking up the tools to create new services."Mapping Hacks" a new book published by O'Reilly, is just out.

Directions Magazine's conference revealed one very clear take away: the evolution of mapping technology has surged into a revolution.Maps in cars, maps on phones, maps for locating missing people, maps, maps everywhere.But a caution - How much do you want to know and how much do you want to share.

As Bob Denaro, vice president of NAVTEQ, cogently put it during our closing plenary session, privacy needs to be a concern but "my privacy is negotiable" if it helps protect family, friends and assets.And so as the ubiquitous distribution of devices capturing and broadcasting location-based information begins to both yield tangible business benefits but invades your "personal space" an evolutionary and revolutionary marketplace rapidly takes form.The result is a commoditization of some geographic data and the "democratization" of data distribution.

The convergence of technology that captures geographic data (satellites, GPS, etc), determines location in real-time (location determination tools), and the software that processes the information (GIS, spatial databases, etc.) defines the "location intelligence" revolution.We have never been at a loss for the application of geospatial software technology, but never before have some many non-GIS tools entered the market that can do similar things without the complexity.Those "geeks" are building applications that show the power of geography but without the complex interfaces of the desktop software of the 90's.

In the U.S., the democratization of data is driving innovation and ancillary technologies like radio frequency identification help to spur thought provoking ideas on how it will be used to track goods through the supply chain.These questions and many others were raised at the conference enabling the conferees to challenge themselves about the nature of things to come and their ability to turn their businesses inside out to capture the opportunities that are likely to present themselves.


Published Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Written by Joe Francica